“What am I doing here?” Rachel said to reflection in the bathroom mirror. It had seemed harmless enough when she asked him dinner. She thought he was a nice to spend time and they had fun together. She’d never told either man about the other. Really there was nothing to tell.
Her and Curtis had only been on a few dates. That wasn’t really dating. Dating implied some kind of steady relationship. Theirs was more of a strong friendship.
Besides any feelings she may have for him could not compensate for their radically different worldviews. She smoothed down her blouse and went back to the table.
Drew walked around and pulled out her chair. He’d been extra attentive this evening and she was glad that she’d given him a second chance.
“The server was just out with the dessert tray. I told her you’d be back in a minute.”
“Thank you.” She placed her napkin across her lap. “Are you getting something?”
“The pie a la mode looked really good.”
“How in the world can you eat ice cream now?”
“You cold? You could use my jacket.”
“I’m fine. I have my sweater but it’s so cold outside I couldn’t even think of having ice cream.”
“Would you like to see the desserts?”
Drew looked at Rachel as he ordered. “I’ll have the pie a la mode. And could I have coffee?”
“Sure. And you ma’am?”
“What do you have chocolate?”
“We have brownie a la mode, dark chocolate lava cake with Raspberry sauce -.”
“I’ll have that.” She jumped in.
“I’ll be out in a moment with your desserts.”
They sat in silence Rachel sipping on her coffee and Drew his Pepsi. The restaurant was fairly dark with three small chandeliers casting a soft glow over the tables directly below. The rest relied almost entirely on the oil lamp on the side of the table.
They served the desserts. Both were much larger than Rachel had expected them to be.
Drew cut down in to his as if he hadn’t eaten an entire meal with appetizer. Which he had. “I’m glad you agreed to see me again.” He squeezed in between bites of pie dripping with white ice cream.
She nodded, not quite sure what to say. You’re welcome sounded ridiculous but that was the only answer that popped in her head. She picked off small nibbles with the corner of her fork. The chocolate melted in her mouth but her stomach pushed back when she tried to swallow.
“What’s wrong?” Drew asked after he’d wolfed down another bite.
“I guess my eyes were bigger than my stomach.”
“We’ll get it to go. You can come back to my place.”
When he said it her stomach squeezed in to a knot. Curtis’ face flashed in her mind. “Oh, I don’t know. I…”
“I rented a comedy. I was hoping you’d come see it with me.”
A comedy did sound nice. It was certainly better than going home and waiting to be tired enough to fall asleep. “That sounds fun.” She smiled. “I’ll follow you over.”
“Great. I don’t live far from here.”
Rachel had her dessert put in a to-go box and went out to her car. After she pulled out behind Drew she called Shannon.
“Hey, how was your date?” Shannon’s voice was up beat.
“It’s not over yet. I’m following him back to his place.”
“Nice, you will give me every detail tomorrow.” Shannon’s hunger to date Drew through Rachel bordered on nuts.
“Don’t know if there will be anything to tell.”
Rachel would have preferred a little less disappointment. “I don’t know how I feel for Drew. He just….it isn’t there.”
“Don’t you feel anything with him?”
“Sure, there is a bit of physical attraction like any woman has for a handsome man but all I do is compare him to Curtis.”
“Well, then go with it. Don’t tie up a great guy like that if you aren’t serious. But if I were you I’d stay tonight just to be sure.”
“That is so shallow. I will talk to you tomorrow.”
Rachel followed his car out to the edge of town and in to a new subdivision. She could make out homes under construction near the entrance and there were For Sale signs on the empty lots. Drew’s name was on most of the signs she passed as they wove their way to the back of the subdivision.
Drew turned on a gravel drive that led to a large cluster of trees. The moonlight splashed down on the roof of a two-story A frame home that was nearly in the trees. He turned in to the smaller driveway that went to the back of the house and parked the car. A floodlight clicked on illuminating the yard. There were flowerbeds along the house and hedges across the front, at least as far as she could see.
“You admiring my landscaping?” He walked back to her and put his arm around her.
“You certainly have a green thumb.”
“I put in perennials all along the sidewalks then bushes across the front. In the spring I put in a few annuals when I mulch the beds. It doesn’t take much time to do and makes the place look neater.”
“Oh I agree, if I didn’t have such a knack for killing plants I’d have some in my house.”
“I have a gazebo with a swing in the back. I spend a lot of time out there in the summer watching birds and squirrels in all of those trees.”
“This isn’t at all what I expected a single man’s house to be like.”
“I’m an outdoorsman. I don’t like being stuck in a house but I also don’t like looking at a bunch of grass. My grandparents taught me about plants and gardening brings back a lot of happy memories.”
“I thought you weren’t close to your family.”
He started to walk her around the back of his car. “The door is this way.” He took her down a sidewalk that went past a picture window and to the door on the side. “My grandparents are gone.” His voice was low, near a whisper. Rachel stilled her breathing to hear him. “They were good people. Others in my family weren’t. I don’t talk about, or to, them.”
He stepped in the back door and put his shoes on a black mat. “You can put your shoes here.” He pointed. She took hers off and set them on the same mat. He walked through the archway to the next room and turned on the light. His kitchen was neat, not a single dish or spoon was anywhere in sight. Even the towels hanging by the sink on a hook were neatly centered.
The colors were quite bold. She followed him through the house in to the living room. The walls were golden yellow with army green trim.
“Your couch looks like one I saw recently in a decorating magazine.”
“Oh yeah, which one?”
“I’m not sure. I get three or four different ones but I remember the light green couch because I was surprised a green couch would look so nice.” She walked around the corner. “Oh and look at this chair. This pattern really pulls out the green.”
The carpeting was plush and it felt inviting under her stocking feet.
“You’re house is absolutely beautiful.” She said when he walked in to the living room.
“Thank you. I like to have an oasis when I leave work.”
“Did you design all of this yourself?”
He handed her a drink. “No, one of the designers that worked at a parade of homes did some work on one of the models. Her name is Brenda Swartz. I was impressed so I asked her to design my place too.”
“She does great work.” Rachel walked in to the dining room and admired the shelves full of books and trinkets.
“Thank you.” His voice was deep, serious. It made Rachel catch her breath. “I’m really glad you like it.” He came up behind her, put the glass that was in her hand on the table and gently kissed the back of her neck. Rather than surrendering to his touch she thought of how secluded this house was. Guilt mixed with fear and she swallowed hard.
“I value things of beauty. When I find them I want to hold on to them.” He kissed her on the ear then down the back of her neck.
Rachel turned slowly to face him and he kissed her deeply. Fear melted away and she was sucked in to the moment. Her heart was no longer in control.
“You’re all I think about from the moment I wake up until I go to bed at night.” He spoke the words straight from a romance novel. “I’ve tried not to rush things but I need you.”
As if he anticipated her every desire he pulled her in close and kissed her gently. Every primal impulse raged through her body and all thoughts of Curtis vanished. She was here, in this moment. And in this moment every cell of her body screamed to give in to Drew.
He lifted her feet off the ground and carried her the few steps to the staircase. Her breathing quickened. It had been so long since she had a man find her desirable and clearly Drew found her desirable. She didn’t want this to be only physical.
“Are you looking for commitment or a physical relationship?”
He kissed her cheek then whispered in her ear. “I don’t care. I only want to have you. Whatever level of commitment you want.”
Oh she melted. This was much too soon to go this far. She was no virgin but she wasn’t easy either. What if this was all he wanted all along?
And what if Curtis finds out.
The thought crashed in her head. She stepped back from Drew, and sucked in a deep breath, fighting for control. What was she doing? He looked like a clown with her lipstick smeared all around his mouth. Her fingers running through his hair had made little spikes all over his head. His chest heaved, and he gulped in a deep breath as if he’d been running hard.
How did she let things get this far, this fast?
She slowed her breathing down even more. Her body calmed down a bit.
“What’s wrong?” Drew asked, as he ran a hand over his hair, smoothing it back. He reached out and took her wrist.
“I shouldn’t be here.” She looked away.
“You’re right, let’s go upstairs.”
“No I mean this…us…now. We are moving too fast.”
“Too fast? What, do you think I’m looking for a one night stand? I’d hardly say this relationship has moved fast.” He took a step toward her. Icy fingers of fear needled at her.
“What are you a tease?” He began to make large gestures with his arms as he spoke. “Did you think you’d come over and kiss for a while on the couch and I’d be fine with that?”
“Actually, I thought we were coming for a movie.”
“Oh come on Rachel.” He took another step to her, she took one more back. “You know that after a few dates when a person invites you over for a movie there is more implied.”
She bumped in to a wall. He continued to walk to her. The wild look she’d seen the first night was back and he was now inches away. He took her face in his hands and pressed his lips hard on her mouth.
Then he was calm.
“You are the most wonderful woman I’ve met.” He kissed her forehead and looked in her eyes. “If you want to watch the movie we can watch the movie.” He took her hand and walked back to the living room and picked up a DVD.
She followed him in the room. If she stayed was she safer than if she tried to leave? She couldn’t run fast in pantyhose and he could quickly out muscle her.
But if she stayed he could change his mind at any moment and force himself on her if he wanted.
She began to speak but the words caught in her throat.
“Did you say something?”
The charmer was back. She would try now. “Maybe we can see a movie some other time. I think it would be better if I went home now.”
“Are you serious?” He tossed the movie down on the coffee table and took a step toward her. “You really want to leave.” He stomped out to the kitchen, ripped the door open, and spun around. “Fine, leave.” His eyes were small slivers of blue behind red eyelids.
She needed to leave. Why had she even come here in the first place?
“I’m sorry. I had a nice time but I need to get home.”
“Oh, so you had a nice time. I wish I could say the same.”
He marched right over her words. “I was hoping to spend a nice evening here with you but tonight you were interested in playing the part of the tease.” His voice was harsh.
He was going to grab her. She braced herself.
“I’m sorry. I was too embarrassed to tell you. This week is my…well…”
He looked at her for a moment then started laughing. “Oh, it’s…” He laughed some more. “I’m sorry. I…” He walked to the door and pulled it open for her.
“Thank you again.” Her voice trembled and she bent down to put buckle her shoes.
“You’re still welcome to stay and watch the movie with me if you’d like.” His voice was calm again.
She looked toward the living room for a moment, considering his offer. He wouldn’t force himself on her tonight and she wouldn’t have to risk his anger.
Something inside of her though wouldn’t let her stay. She couldn’t remember ever having a gut feeling so strong. She needed to get away from the house and Drew as fast as she could.
“Thank you but no.” She touched his cheek and quickly scooted out the door before he could reply. She walked around the house and paused for a moment outside the large window she’d passed on the way in. As she looked through it Drew came in to view. He clicked on the television with his remote then turned toward her.
Their eyes locked and she froze. For a few moments she was powerless to move. Drew turned and walked toward the direction she’d exited. That gave her the boost she needed to get her legs moving again. She walked quickly, nearly a run. Her healed books clanking steadily on the sidewalk.
Fear wrapped around her throat and her heartbeat thudded in her ears. She jumped in the car and started the engine. The headlights threw their glow on Drew standing where the sidewalk met the driveway less than twenty feet away. His eyes were dark and while she was sure he couldn’t see her past the high beams her blood ran cold.
She backed in the turn around and cranked the wheel without making eye contact again. The floodlight in the driveway showed his silhouette as she pulled down his driveway and out of the subdivision. She watched for head lights in her rearview.
Her heart didn’t slow down until she was out of Drew’s neighborhood and back on the main roads.
You are reading A Face in the Shadow by Tiffany Colter.
Tiffany is a writer, speaker and writing career coach. She is a frequent contributor to print and online publications in addition to her regular marketing blog at www.WritingCareerCoach.com
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This story is copyright Tiffany Colter. 2007. It may not be copied, distributed, sold or included in any larger work without the expressed written permission of Tiffany Colter.
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